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Gaza death toll nears 2,400, thousands at risk in packed hospitals

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The Palestinian death toll from brutal Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip neared 2,400 Sunday, while medics sounded alarms that thousands more could die at its packed hospitals.

A Palestinian man points at destruction as people inspect the damage following overnight Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip's Jabalia refugee camp, Oct. 11, 2023. (AFP Photo)
A Palestinian man points at destruction as people inspect the damage following overnight
Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip’s Jabalia refugee camp, Oct. 11, 2023. (AFP Photo)

The Gaza Health Ministry revised the number of Palestinians killed in Israeli air attacks to 2,329, while the number of wounded has also risen to 9,042.

The death toll on Sunday surpassed that of the 2014 Israel-Palestinian conflict, when 2,251 Palestinians, including 1,462 civilians, were killed, according to U.N. figures.

That war lasted six weeks, and 74 people were killed on the Israeli side, including six civilians.

In the meanwhile, the outbreak of violence has also taken its toll on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where a total of 56 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli gunfire since last week, the Gaza-based Health Ministry said Sunday.

The latest casualty was a Palestinian man shot by Israeli soldiers in the northern West Bank.

The recent violence broke out on Oct. 7 when Israeli forces launched an indiscriminate air assault on the Gaza Strip, in response to a surprise incursion of neighboring Israeli territories by the Palestinian resistance group Hamas.

Thousands at risk

Medics in Gaza warned Sunday that thousands could die as hospitals packed with wounded people run desperately low on fuel and basic supplies under Israel’s “complete siege.”

Israeli forces, supported by a growing deployment of U.S. warships in the region, positioned themselves along Gaza’s border and drilled for what Israel said would be a broad campaign to dismantle the resistance group.

Hospitals are expected to run out of generator fuel within two days, according to the U.N., which said that that would endanger the lives of thousands of patients. Gaza’s sole power plant shut down for lack of fuel after Israel completely sealed off the 40-kilometer-long (25-mile-long) territory following the Hamas attack.

In Nasser Hospital, in the southern town of Khan Younis, intensive care rooms are packed with wounded patients, most of them children under the age of 3. Hundreds of people with severe blast injuries have come to the hospital, where fuel is expected to run out by Monday, said Dr. Mohammed Qandeel, a consultant at the critical care complex.

There are 35 patients in the ICU who require ventilators and another 60 on dialysis. If fuel runs out, “it means the whole health system will be shut down,” he said, as children moaned in pain in the background. “All these patients are in danger of death if the electricity is cut off.”

Dr. Hussam Abu Safiya, the head of pediatrics at the Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, said it did not evacuate despite Israeli orders. There are seven newborns in the ICU hooked up to ventilators, he said. “We cannot evacuate, that would mean death for them and other patients under our care.”

Patients keep arriving with severed limbs, severe burns and other life-threatening injuries. “It’s frightening,” he said.

The Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the territory’s largest, said it would bury 100 bodies in a mass grave as an emergency measure after its morgue overflowed, with relatives unable to bury their loved ones. Tens of thousands of people seeking safety have gathered in the hospital compound.

Gaza was already in a humanitarian crisis due to a growing shortage of water and medical supplies caused by the Israeli siege. With some bakeries closing, residents said they were unable to buy bread. Israel has also cut off water, forcing many to rely on brackish wells.

Israel has ordered more than 1 million Palestinians – almost half the territory’s population – to move south. The military says it is trying to clear away civilians ahead of a major campaign against Hamas in the north.

The U.N. and aid groups say the mass exodus within Gaza, along with Israel’s complete siege, will cause untold human suffering. The World Health Organization said the evacuation “could be tantamount to a death sentence” for the more than 2,000 patients in northern hospitals.

The military said Sunday that it would not target a single route south between 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., again urging Palestinians to leave the north en masse. The military offered two corridors and a longer window the day before. It says hundreds of thousands have already fled south.

The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees says an estimated 1 million people have been displaced in Gaza in a single week.